Thursday, 12 August 2010

On Robert Sungenis and Hebrew Catholics

I absolutely admire Robert Sungenis for reverting to the Church, and for writing a wonderful refutation of the doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. As an apologist, he is recommended by other apologists I deeply respect. The Church needs apologists, now more than, perhaps, ever, and it is good and noble of him to stand up for his beliefs.

While his credentials and volume of knowledge are certainly higher and better than mine, no apologist or learned man can ever know everything, nor, I believe be right about everything. Certainly, his advocacy of the geocentric system (!) somewhat diminishes his credibility, in my view in any case. The fact that it stems from his over-literal interpretation of the Bible rather than scientific research doesn't help much, but only makes things worse, discrediting him in other aspects (where he is, undoubtedly, right).

I recently came across some opinions Sungenis expresses on another topic, and it leaves me sad and frustrated that such a learned man apparently refuses - or has no time - to consider the simple, generally-accesible facts. The matter in question is his critique of Hebrew Catholics and their apparent Zionism. Since I, too, believe that the Jews have a right to a country of their own, just as the French, the Latvians and the Russians do, I must be a Zionist, as well - so, yes, I do take some of his criticism personally.

Dr. Sungenis writes, in his refutation of Catholics for Israel, "The only part of the Torah that the Church has taken as its own is the moral commands, for they were created by God long before the Jews existed". I had somehow thought that Abraham and his descendants were chosen precisely to deliver God's moral commands to the world, and that was their special place, their calling and mission - to be the chosen people who brought the word of God into the world (and eventually also the Word made flesh). Was Moses not a Jew?

He continues, discussing God's calling and gifts: "The New Testament did, indeed, revoke the land of Israel from the Jews, since the Jews who were once given the land of Israel had those property rights revoked when the Old Covenant was revoked... The Torah is clear that the land of Israel was part and parcel with the covenant between God and Israel. Hence, if there is no separate covenant for the Jews there is no separate land for the Jews"

But Dr. Sungenis, where do they go?! The 800 000 refugees from the Arab countries, who had been driven from their homes, and have neither compensation nor the right of return. Do you know how many tried to escape the imminent death in European concentration camps - and were never allowed into Palestine? Do you know those who moved to Eretz Israel, and worked 20 hours a day to fight malaria (yes, doctor, malaria, lots and lots of malaria) on an empty, uncultivated land? What does this have to do with any coventant? Or, by denying the Jews preferential treatment, do you wish to fall into the opposite extreme, and deny them even a right to exist as a nation?

When they could not protect their own children and relatives from being exterminated, is it so surprising that the founders of Israel decided not to be at the mercy of any other government, and not to rely on anyone's protection any more? Well, has anyone protected them - on a governmental level, I mean? Have they? (Ah, yes, the Ottomans in the Balkans have always done it, as one of our Norwegian PhDs wrote - forgetting, apparently, that they had to pay for this protection by giving up their boys to slavery) Inded, Zionism did arise before the Holocaust (and was one of the most important reasons for it), but it sprung into being along with other nationalist movements, that, put into simple terms, strove for nation-states? The fact that the Jews rejected our covenant is a matter of religion, but should we deny them their nationality, and their right to statehood, as well? Isn't that, well, disproportionate?

Yes, I believe my Protestant Zionist friends did more harm than good by constantly referring to Israel's divine right to the land. That was the reason, the only reason actually, I felt annoyed by the questions like "Do you love Israel?" That sort of preferential treatment seemed unjustified for a secular state. Justifying political actions done by secular people on the basis of divine right is annoying, Robert Sungenis is right when he implies it. The problem is that these actions can be justified on other grounds - legal, logical, historical, you name it.

It is strange to me to read that for Sungenis, the Torah is clear that the land of Israel was part and parcel of the covenant between God and Israel. For the land had been given to Abraham unconditionally, prior to the either the covenant or the Law. It does seem that Israel's disobedience had caused several exhiles as disciplinary means of punishment, but if anything, the supposedly clear teaching can, and has been argued by many.

Dr. Sungenis writes: "It is only Jewish political aspirations that seek to support the accupation of Israel as a divine right, otherwise known as Zionism, the very political movement that the author of Catholics for Israel advocates..." And following: "Anti-Zionism is a rejection of the political belief that the land of Palestine belongs to Jews alone". I am not quite clear on whether this wording was intended to be what it is, or whether Dr. Sungenis has been somewhat rash in his conclusions. For it does indeed smack of propaganda, mixing truth with a healthy dose of lies.

In Sungenis' view, religion and politics cannot be separated for Zionists, thus the movement has to be rejected on religious grounds (or is it in his own view of the Jews? Since they failed religiously, no political entity of their own should be alloted to them). For surely, he has read David Ben Gurion's appeal to Arab residents of Palestine, calling them brothers and seeking to acommodate them in the new state? And the reply thereof - stating that there is no misunderstanding, and the intention is clear, but the Arab population does not wish to be a minority, a status the Jews are all too well familiar with. So, where does this alone come from? Perhaps from the fiery sermons of Al-Husseini? Who came to Berlin begging for the final solution so that they do not come and take away our land and destroy our holy places, and, of course, drink the blood of our children. OK, I am exaggerating and being unfair, but so is the use alone in Sungenis' definition of Zionism.

Just for the record, Sungenis' bishop did desribe some of his writings on the subject of Jews and Israel as "hostile, uncharitable, and un-christian". For the record still, I am not, and never have been, a supporter of the dual-covenant theology, but I do believe that due to the nature of Christ the Christians share a special bond, a relationship with the Jewish people, that will only do good to cherish and to live with, no matter how complicated and unresolved.

A more in-depth analysis of the subject matter at hand can be read here: (without me necessarily agreeing, or disagreeing, with ideas and opinions expressed in that blog)

1 comment:

  1. Good piece. Here are two links about Jews and Christians and God that back up what you're saying here:

    The footnotes and addendum are good on it, too.

    And this one:

    The last comment under the article might even be better than the article itself.